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New Drug May Boost Immune System Defense Against Cancer

By Angela Young

A new study is showing progress in patients where other treatments have failed. An experimental drug is being used to tap the power of the immune system to shrink cancer cells and fight the disease.

There is a protein called PD-L1 sitting on the surface of cancer cells that works to make the cancer cell invisible to the immune system. This new drug binds to the surface of the cell making them visible to the immune system. This allows the immune system to once again fight the cancer cell.

21% of the 140 patients in the pilot study saw a significant shrinkage after three months of taking the medication. 26 of the patients have continued to respond to the treatment. One patient saw the tumors disappear completely and some patients have been on the drug for over a year. The drug seems to work on a wide variety of cancers, including kidney cancer, stomach cancer, melanoma skin cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Among these are some of the toughest to treat.

The results of this study, funded by Genentech/Roche, were shared at a news conference put together by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. While, the findings are preliminary other top drug companies are working to make their own versions of drugs that target PD-L1.

In the history of cancer therapy, there have never been five or more drug companies working on the same treatment at the same time. The discovery of this drug is a revolutionary tool in the fight against cancer. These drugs are part of a new angle in cancer treatment that spurs the immune system into gear when the disease suppresses the body's immune system. In a way, Yervoy wakes the immune system up to start fighting again after it's been napping.

In cancer treatment studies, results are often dismal because patients are brought into a study as a last resort. This means they are extremely progressed in their diseases. While, many of the results have been positive, researchers are keeping an eye on the adverse effected. Some of these effects have included lung and liver inflammation, problems with thyroid glands and rashes and hypoglycemia. These can all come from an immune system that's been thrown off balance.

In the June 2012 issue of New England Journal of Medicine, one studied showed that three patients died of pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs. Researchers are working to combat these harmful side effects, while still promoting the successes against cancer cells.


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#cancer #system #immune #drug #patients #cell #treatment #study #results #fight 
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